After a disastrous start to the campaign, Milan opted to bring in Stefano Pioli as Marco Giampaolo’s successor back in October.
As per the club’s official site, the 54-year-old penned a two-year deal with the Rossoneri, and given his wealth of experience in previous stints with a number of Serie A clubs, it seemed like a safe decision from the Milan hierarchy albeit a hugely unpopular one at the time with ‘#PioliOut’ trending.
To his credit, Pioli has brought a sense of stability and calmness to the situation as it could have easily spiralled from the nightmare in the opening few weeks.
Although we’re still off the pace in terms of Champions League qualification, our overall play has improved under his stewardship and results have at least put us back in the picture and in contention for the Europa League.
That said, for all the positive work Pioli has done at Milan since he was appointed, is there a real belief that he can take us to that next level if we were to strengthen the squad this summer?
Pioli’s track record suggests not
This is now the Italian tactician’s 11th season coaching in Serie A, with his best result a third-placed finish with Lazio in the 2014/15 campaign.
That year aside, and bear in mind he had a second season with Lazio after that and spells with Inter and Fiorentina, he hasn’t coached a side which has finished higher than seventh place.
Circumstances, environments and playing squads can all have a decisive influence on such results, and perhaps sometimes things just click at a particular club.
However, it’s difficult to see Pioli taking us to that next level as although performances and results have improved, they haven’t been consistent, and that’s even after further reinforcements arrived in January.
None of this is to say that Pioli is a poor coach. He deserves credit for the positive things he’s brought to Milan in his tenure thus far, but ultimately can we trust him to kick on and deliver big results in the long-term future? We need to be 100 percent sure before going into a new campaign with him at the helm.
Milan are in a difficult spot in the sense that as we continue to struggle to get back to the Champions League, it’s unclear as to what calibre of coach we can attract and afford, but the ownership need to put their hands in their pocket and address this issue.
It’s arguably as uncertain as ever in terms of what direction and strategy Elliott and CEO Ivan Gazidis are going to adopt beyond this season. Asking some of the elite options on the market to build with 50/50 punts on talented young players isn’t going to appeal to some.
Luciano Spalletti is said to be back in the frame, as reported by Pianeta Milan, and many were perhaps calling for him to be the preferred choice to replace Giampaolo last year.
Former boss Massimiliano Allegri is still out of work, and if we’re perhaps looking to be equally as ambitious, Mauricio Pochettino is still looking for his next job.
These are the type of names that instil many of us with confidence and belief that they can not only attract top players, but also have the ability and experience to deliver success be it a top-four finish which we continue to crave or trophies as we’ve already experienced with Allegri during his previous stint with us.
This post is in no way intended to be a criticism of Pioli or his time at Milan. He has done a solid job, and should the season be completed depending on the coronavirus outbreak, he could yet deliver the results which make keeping him the obvious choice.
As things stand though, if we are to fall short again this season, it’s time to be ambitious with our managerial choice, share a vision with that individual to build a long-term plan with structure and the means for success, and see it through.
The MilanTalk Twitter poll below gives the edge to the ‘better options’ argument, although there is still a significant proportion who want to stick with Pioli.
That is entirely understandable, but it feels as though Milan have to now target an elite coach where possible, as whether it was Clarence Seedorf, Pippo Inzaghi, Vincenzo Montella or Gennaro Gattuso, we have continued to fail in recent years to achieve our ultimate objective and perhaps not bringing in a world-class coach has been the difference all this time.
If you had to decide on basis of what we’ve seen to date, would you retain Pioli next season?#ForzaMilan 🔴⚫️
— Milan Talk (@MilanTalk1) March 22, 2020